The task of capturing three powerful and personal moments in Michigan civil rights history was the mission of filmmaker Clayton Rye in his feature documentary which earned first place in the 2010 Made-In-Michigan Film Festival.
Rye’s award-winning film, “Detroit Civil Rights Trilogy,” which features the 1932
Ford Hunger March, was televised in the Detroit area on WDET Feb. 28 and will be televised
in West Michigan on Monday, March 28 on WGVU, at 10:30 p.m.
“As a filmmaker, I can’t go wrong trying to capture that story to put it into a permanent record and try to make it interesting,” said Rye, a professor in Television and Digital Media Production at Ferris State University. “I knew these people were important for what they did, so I couldn’t go wrong.”
Rye wrote, directed and produced the entire trilogy in his spare time during the past few years to create a documentary that would highlight the lives of three influential Michiganders.
“‘Detroit Civil Rights Trilogy’ presents three personal stories that chronicle black history in Michigan,” he said. “The stories are told in the words of the subjects.”
The three unsung heroes, all natives of Detroit, shared their stories in the documentary to show their influence on history and the impact it made on their personal lives.
Featured in the documentary are Sara Elizabeth Haskell, who became known as the “Rosa Parks of the Boblo Boat” in 1945; Duane Gerlach, who staged black face minstrel shows for more than 10 years in a Detroit suburb; and Dave Moore, the last survivor of the Ford Hunger March, who told of his experiences during the Great Depression.
Rye understands how filmmakers face rejection and how expensive fees can be to enter a film in competition. He has been involved in filmmaking since 1974 and is excited about the three film festivals he was accepted into in 2010. The festivals included the Grand Rapids Film Festival, the East Lansing Film Festival and the Michigan-In-Michigan Film Festival.
Rye has received recognition for his work throughout the country and uplinked his film “Jim Crow Museum” to all the PBS stations nationwide in 2004.
With 14 previously-awarded films to his credit, Rye has transferred his passion for filmmaking to the classroom at Ferris where he has taught since 1988. He teaches hands-on classes in Film and Television, as well as Writing and Production classes.